Subcommittee Members See Need for Better Data in Higher Education

WASHINGTON – Today the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing entitled “Empowering Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions on Higher Education.” Through witness questioning and testimony, it became clear that students, institutions, and policymakers need better information about how students are faring in our higher education system. Improvements to the postsecondary data infrastructure must provide information in ways that better serve students while securing and protecting their privacy.

“We have a vested interest in ensuring that colleges and universities are serving all their students well,” said Rep. Susan Davis (CA-53), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee. “But to do that, we need comprehensive information that accurately portrays today’s students. Where there are concerns about the privacy of our students, our Committee can come together to have a solutions-based conversation about the best way to secure this data. To dismiss this critical lack of data for privacy reasons would be short-sighted.  This type of data collection is what would allow us to uncover equity gaps in access, affordability, and completion for all students, and empower them to make better informed decisions about where to spend their time and hard-earned money.

Mamie Voight, the Vice President of Policy Research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, served as the Democratic witness. Voight defined the weaknesses and gaps of the current higher education data infrastructure system while also highlighting the need for one comprehensive, secure postsecondary student data system.

“The current puzzle that is our postsecondary data infrastructure is duplicative, inefficient, cumbersome, and worst of all—it does not allow key constituents to answer pressing questions about today’s higher education system,” said Voight. A centralized data system would address the shortcomings of our current system by producing the information necessary to inform policy design.”

Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) has introduced the bipartisan College Transparency Act of 2017. This legislation would provide information for students and families as they consider higher education opportunities by accurately reporting on student outcomes such as enrollment, completion, and post-college success across colleges and majors, while ensuring the privacy of individual students is securely protected.

House Democrats have launched the Aim Higher campaign, with a focus on improving access, affordability and completion in higher education. Legislation such as the College Transparency Act of 2017 will give students the tools they need to make more informed decisions about their higher education.

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